Denmark’s asylum rules might be reprimandable, but its recognition rate is robust

In our second of two pieces examining how unwelcoming Denmark is to refugees and migrants, we assess the all-important recognition rate

Many asylum-seekers do not consider the all-important recognition rate (photo: iStock) Many asylum-seekers do not consider the all-important recognition rate (photo: iStock)
February 6th, 2016 12:39 pm| by Allan Nisgaard
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From the adverts in Lebanese newspapers in September 2015 warning them Denmark is a bad country to apply for asylum in, to the controversial clause in the new Asylum Bill that enables the authorities to confiscate their jewellery, Denmark currently has a bad reputation in the area of asylum.

READ MORE: Is Denmark as unwelcoming to refugees as the media and the government would have us believe?

But compared to its neighbours Sweden, Norway and Germany, there is one area in which Denmark leads the way: its asylum recognition rate.


However, it is often overlooked – by the media, the public and the asylum-seekers themselves.

A high recognition rate
The recognition rate is the percentage of positive decisions taken during the asylum process, and Denmark’s is very high (see factbox below).

In all three countries, recognition rates differ depending on the nationality of the refugee or immigrant.

Refugees from Iraq are twice as likely to receive a permit to stay in Germany as they are in Denmark. When it comes to Syrians and Eritreans, all three countries have a relatively high recognition rate. However, the countries do not grant the same protection status to refugees.

In Denmark, Syrians have a 70 percent chance of receiving convention status, which is the strongest form of protection. This gives the refugees more rights and a safer residence. In Sweden, Syrians only have a 10 percent chance of receiving convention status.

Not often considered
The protection status is not something refugees consider when they choose a country, according to Michala Clante Bendixen, the head of the Danish organisation Refugees Welcome.

“Most people, not even Danes, know what convention status is,” she told the Copenhagen Post.

“It requires a lot of technical insight. Therefore, it is not of importance to the refugees. They are more interested in whether they can get permanent residence or not.”

Difficult to compare countries
Recognition rates and protection status are just some of the relevant factors which differ from country to country.

For example, in contrast to Germany and Denmark, refugees in Sweden are allowed to live in private homes during the asylum period. On the other hand, refugees in Denmark are given a higher amount of pocket money.

Moreover, Denmark and Sweden have spent a larger share of their GDP on refugees than many of the other EU countries, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Difficult to compare
According to Zachary Whyte, an asylum and integration researcher at the University of Copenhagen, these many different factors make it difficult to point out which country is the most refugee-friendly.

“It is very complex. How do you measure the amount of pocket money in relation to how early a refugee can get government-funded legal assistance?” he asked.

“There are so many important details that it is difficult to compare the countries.”

Due to the increasing number of refugees, Denmark and its neighbouring countries are constantly changing their policies towards refugees and immigrants.

Recognition rates of Denmark and its neighbouring countries


Germany:
Population: 80.8 million
Number of asylum-seekers in 2015: 1.1 million
Recognition rates (first two quarters of 2015):
Overall: 43.5 percent
Syrians: 93.6 percent
Eritreans: 90.2 percent
Iraqis: 98.8 percent
Afghans: 69.7 percent

Advantages:
Due to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door policy, Germany has become an attractive place for refugees. The country has a high recognition rate for Iraqis and Afghans. There are plenty of unskilled jobs in German industry.

Disadvantages:
The huge flow of refugees has overwhelmed the country and Merkel is now facing political resistance in the country. The time period for family reunification is long. Social benefits and minimum wage are low and education is not free.

Denmark:
Population: 5.6 million
Number of asylum-seekers in 2015: 21,000
Recognition rates (first two quarters of 2015):
Overall: 87 percent
Syrians: 96.5 percent
Eritreans: 99 percent
Iraqis: 28.6 percent
Afghans: 34.7 percent

Advantages:
Many local organisations all over the country offer free support and help to refugees. The country presents language schools and good accommodation conditions for refugees. Healthcare is free and education is free with a student salary. The minimum wage is high.

Disadvantages:
The right-leaning government, which was elected in June 2015, has tightened the immigration laws in Denmark. For example, 20 percent of Syrian refugees do not have the right to bring family members to Denmark during the first three years, and getting permanent residence is now very hard. The case-processing time has increased and the recognition rates for Iraqis and Afghans are low compared to the neighbouring countries. Many refugees are unemployed.

Sweden:
Population: 9.6 million
Number of asylum-seekers in 2015: Around 163,000
Recognition rates (first two quarters of 2015):
Overall: 78 percent
Syrians: 99.7 percent
Eritreans: 100 percent
Iraqis: 58.1 percent
Afghans: 76.6 percent

Advantages:
For years, Sweden has been known for its friendly and open policy towards refugees. The requirements for permanent residence are low and refugees are allowed to live in private homes during the asylum period. Except for a few fees, education and healthcare is free.

Disadvantages:
The open-door policy has created a huge flow of refugees. The case-processing time is getting longer, accommodation is becoming more expensive and job centres are experiencing a lot of pressure. New, strict rules for family reunification have been announced.

Norway:
Population: 5.1 million
Number of asylum-seekers in 2015: 31,145
Recognition rates (first two quarters of 2015):
Overall: 72.6 percent
Syrians: 96.4 percent
Eritreans: 95 percent
Iraqis: 60 percent
Afghans: 83.6 percent

Advantages:
The recognition rate for Afghans is high. Otherwise, there are no significant benefits compared to Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

Disadvantages:
Like Denmark, the laws have been tightened recently, the case-processing time is long and refugees can only get permanent residence after five years of temporary residence. Family reunification costs 5,900 Norwegian kroner (4,600 kroner) per person.

Sources: Eurostat, refugees.dk, the World Bank Group